PBS Boss, While Unveiling ‘Downton Abbey’ Premiere Date, Takes Shots at Cable Networks

Jul 22, 2014  •  Post A Comment

While announcing the premiere date for season five of "Downton Abbey," the president and CEO of PBS took the opportunity to take a few shots at cable.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the period drama will roll out in the U.S. on Jan. 4, with PBS breaking the news today at the TCA press tour in Beverly Hills.

"PBS President and Chief Executive Paula Kerger defended, as she has in the past, the decision to run 'Downton' months after it has aired in Britain, which has meant that many U.S. fans uncover spoilers online before getting a chance to watch the episodes. This has led to much criticism of PBS, but Kerger remains undaunted," the Times reports.

Kerger indicated that January, when the weather is cold across much of the U.S., works well for the show — and she noted that viewership for the series grew by 16% during the past season.

"Meanwhile, the usually circumspect Kerger took a few whacks at cable networks, which she says have abandoned their original mission and are chasing reality hits," the report notes.

One target was A&E, which once focused on fine arts but these days features reality programming such as "Duck Dynasty." Said Kerger: "Most people forget A&E once stood for 'Arts & Entertainment.'"

"As for History, the onetime home of endless World War II documentaries now has a 'broader portfolio and a different definition of history, I guess,' Kerger cracked. Among History's top shows is 'Pawn Stars,' set in a family-run Las Vegas pawn shop," the story reports.

"'We're not necessarily in the same business,' Kerger said, referring to the public broadcaster's programming lineup, which beyond 'Downton' also includes the British hit 'Sherlock' as well as the customary documentaries and educational programming," the article adds.

Referring to quality arts and educational content, Kerger said: "We see ourselves as really standing alone in that space."

The Times report adds: "In addition to the 'Downton' premiere news, Kerger came to the press tour with announcements for several new shows, including a film biography of Walt Disney that will air on 'American Experience' in the fall of 2015. Also coming: 'The Brain With Dr. David Eagleman,' six one-hour episodes exploring neuroscience.

In other programming notes, PBS member stations will stream the Ken Burns doc "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History" starting one day after its September premiere, and the British drama "Call the Midwife" will return for a fourth season.

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